University of Houston Libraries honored its top performers at an online awards ceremony this week. The Library Excellence Awards, now in its 21st year, recognizes the contributions of librarians and staff who go above and beyond. Dean of Libraries and Elizabeth D. Rockwell chair Athena Jackson commended the dedication of those who persevered during the challenges of the past year, prioritizing each other’s safety and wellbeing, and showing empathy, creativity, and agility in sustaining Libraries services.
The Student Achievement awards were presented to Jordan Kulzer and Gabrielle McCullough. Kulzer showed exceptional commitment to completing necessary tasks in shipping and receiving and ensuring that operations continued to run smoothly during the pandemic while demonstrating superior leadership and ability to work resourcefully. McCullough is a self-starter who exudes a passion for working collaboratively with all team members and providing exceptional support to patrons, and a tireless focus on enriching research services for all library users.
This year’s McGovern Outstanding Student award recipient is De’Jah Hopkins, whose hard work and positive attitude has made a strong impression on colleagues throughout the Libraries. Arriving with new insights and the work ethic to bring ideas to fruition, Hopkins’ creative skills were instrumental in planning, providing input, and developing the department’s first inventory management system.
The McGovern Staff Rookie of the Year is Brooks Whitaker, whose work is described as thoughtful and thorough, and who has been a steadying presence in the department. Whitaker’s extensive knowledge of archival standards and best practices, and critical consideration of questions on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) have provided key insight to the department’s goal of working towards anti-racist, inclusive archival description in finding aid inventories.
Carolina Hernandez is the McGovern Librarian Rookie of the year. Hernandez has hit the ground running since joining the Libraries in 2019. Known as a hard-working and responsible colleague who is a joy to work with, Hernandez has been an integral part of the instruction team’s success in developing online learning objects, necessary documentation, and most importantly, meeting the educational needs of UH students. Hernandez has also been involved in the UH community as a mentor through the Las Comadres mentoring program. An active scholar and practitioner, Hernandez implemented a program called Teaching Squares which allows groups of instruction librarians to observe one another for improvement in teaching.
This year’s Outstanding Group is Information and Access Services (IAS) who has reached levels far above outstanding when confronted with the unimaginable. IAS enabled the Libraries to continue to function in support of the University and established best practices in the wake of the pandemic. In response to calls to reopen the library, IAS set entry protocols, health and safety guidelines, and access and service processes to support the teaching, learning, and research mission of the Libraries and the University. IAS guided users through new services as they were implemented, extended flexibility, and delivered not only great service but relief to so many students and researchers as they continued work through their own difficulties. IAS led the Libraries in implementing policies and procedures during the change from in-person service to remote/hybrid service and created new processes for services like circulation of print materials in a safe manner, offering curbside delivery, mail delivery and scanning services.
Marilyn Myers is this year’s Trailblazer Award for Leading Organization Change recipient. Myers became interim dean only a few weeks before being put into the unprecedented position of leading the Libraries through a pandemic, which included moving staff at all levels to remote work, managing logistical challenges, and responding to university priorities, while keeping the Libraries’ mission and values at the forefront. Myers continued innovations to establish the Libraries as a research facility and ensured the ongoing informational needs of students and faculty were met.
This year’s recipient of the Dean Dana C. Rooks and Dr. Charles W. Rooks Diversity Award is Veronica Arellano Douglas, who was the 2019 – 2020 chair of the Libraries’ Committee on Diversity and Inclusion (CODI). Douglas led CODI in an effort to develop a comprehensive learning plan on (EDI), and regularly writes and presents on EDI topics in instruction and librarianship.
Susan Ryan won the Staff Achievement award. Ryan is a great resource and a great person who continually goes the extra mile, and then goes even further to make things better. Ryan is very energetic, a dependable member of the department, and gets along well with others. During the pandemic, Ryan was one of the first staff members to return to work and offer assistance where needed.
Salima Bowaniya also won the Staff Achievement award. Known for being patient and adaptable, Bowaniya volunteered early on to help other departments with work that had become time-consuming as a result of being remote. Bowaniya learned multiple assignments and demonstrated both a keen willingness to learn and also a wonderful spirit of comradery.
This year’s McGovern Outstanding Staff Award recipient is Michael Caldwell, who is not only extremely effective at the job, but is also always dependable, patient, and generous. Caldwell established processes and streamlined day-to-day operations in the essential role of shipping and receiving, mitigating mail delivery challenges associated with the pandemic and ensuring that adequate personal protective equipment were delivered to all departments as needed.
This year’s first recipient of the Librarian Achievement Award is Emily Vinson, who has shown true initiative and exceptional efforts over the past year. Vinson instituted and organized a productive remote-work program that kept 28 students throughout multiple departments employed while safely working and studying at home. Vinson also built a strong audiovisual archive and service program, leading the growth of the AV Repository and engaging donors, researchers, students, and filmmakers.
The next recipient of the Librarian Achievement Award is Ian Knabe, known for service and leadership during a time when the department experienced numerous challenges. Knabe worked diligently to embrace a leadership role with limited personnel, providing insight, guidance, and troubleshooting. Knabe showed in-depth familiarity with colleagues’ abilities and strengths, allowing them to focus on priorities and empowering each member to produce their best work.
Lee Hilyer is the McGovern Outstanding Librarian who demonstrated exceptional leadership in the Libraries’ transition to remote services. Hilyer embodies what the Libraries aims to do – contribute to student success and the research activity of the University. Hilyer’s accomplishment in leading the team to support the education and research mission of the Libraries and the University while acknowledging and addressing the health, safety, and logistical challenges posed over the last year has been extraordinary.
The 2021 Library Excellence Awards committee members are Tim McGittigan, Ian Knabe, Annie Wu, Rachel Helbing, Melinda Colmenero, Mea Warren, Christina Gola (ex officio), and Mark Cooper (ex officio).
Alexander Rodriguez has a summer internship at the University of Houston Archives, funded by the University of Chicago through a merit scholarship. Rodriguez is working with three extensive audiovisual collections, Marketing and Communications, Special Events, and Development, which contain highly requested material and document important campus people and events. The project will significantly enhance the discoverability of these resources. Rodriguez is a fourth-year student at the University of Chicago, pursuing a major of political science focusing on international affairs and a minor in French.
What inspires your interest in working with archives?
This year, I started work on my undergraduate thesis about decolonization. In essence, I’m asking how and why France still maintains a substantial empire around the globe, even though history presents independence as something realized and done for the formerly colonized world. One aspect of my approach to answering that is to not take for granted the motivations and considerations of the two relevant actors, the French and the territorial residents. To evaluate those motivations, my task is to decode what their goals were, what information they were looking at, and what factors they found important. This kind of research necessitates the records and documents from the critical period, which can best be found in archives. As preparation for this research, I wanted to get more first-hand experience with archives, especially on the internal side. I knew I would be coming home to Houston for the summer, so I reached out to Special Collections about working with them, and the opportunity came together from there.
Please describe the tasks involved in your archival work.
My focus here has been stewarding a new acquisition of archival materials from UH Communications and Marketing. The items mostly originate from the turn of the millennium and include a variety of videocassettes, audiotapes, and newsletters. Over the past weeks, I have worked on cataloging and organizing the material. From sifting through the items, I have been gleaning information about individual artifacts and the set as a whole, which can be turned into description information useful for researchers hoping to tap into the collection. Out of the collection, I also select a few for digitization, particularly if they seem fragile or useful to make accessible upfront. Alongside that, I have also been working with collections from Development and Special Events to compare their content to this collection.
What stories/themes do you see emerging from these collections?
One aspect that I’ve noticed is the way the University spotlights its faculty and their work in its outreach initiatives. Many of the commercials and advertisements produced for UH focus on researchers who have advanced their fields while at the University, such as Dr. Paul Chu’s discoveries in superconductivity. Elsewhere, UH professors appear in news segments to discuss their work and share their perspective. The common message for the public is that this work is not only research worth continuing but also knowledge that has an impact on the lives of people outside academia and merits sharing. Through its incorporation with the Marketing materials, it becomes clear how that presentation underlines the importance of the University in supporting and enabling this research, which then encourages the next generation of bright minds to come to UH and join these efforts at the forefront of learning.
What is the significance of making archival collections more accessible?
An archive has to be built with the purpose of being used as a resource for the curious. If holding on to artifacts of the past was the only consideration, we’d do well to encase everything in concrete. These archival collections are a material memory that provides unique perspectives and invites further inquiry. By making them more available, we can encourage researchers to include them into their pursuits, alongside the sort of information they can gain from conventional libraries and websites, which can really only benefit their work. The best research is about going beyond the word of the text and asking questions about the document itself. Why was this created? Why is it in this format? Why is it together with these other items? Part of the point of preservation is to construct that context in a meaningful way, which can help take researchers to a deeper understanding of their subject.
University of Houston Libraries, in partnership with UH Facilities/Construction Management, will improve the services and space of the 24 Hour Lounge located in MD Anderson Library to further support student success.
The construction project will include the addition of Einstein Bros. Bagels to the space, moving from its current location in PGH. While the space will be open 24/7, Einstein Bros. Bagels will maintain its own hours of operation.
The Lounge will be extended to a mezzanine. Entrances to the space will be expanded. Computing and seating space will be added, and vending services will be continued. The target completion date for construction is August 2022.
Updates to the project will be shared as they become available.
Emily Vinson, audiovisual archivist and curator of the KUHT and KUHF Collections at University of Houston Libraries, is the current recipient of the Rooks Early Career Librarian Fellowship (ECLF). The ECLF endowment was established by former UH Libraries dean Dana Rooks and spouse Charles W. (Mickey) Rooks, PhD to support professional development and research opportunities for UH librarians early in their careers.
Please describe your research.
My central research question was to compare the accuracy of various transcription methods. I had been considering how to make our audiovisual (AV) archival collections more accessible to deaf and hard of hearing users through closed captions. I had imagined that online machine-generated transcripts would be the path forward for making collections accessible.
How did the fellowship facilitate the development of this work?
Without the ECLF funding, I would never have been able to test my assumptions on the accuracy of transcription methods. In the first year of the Fellowship I developed a small research study to compare four methods of transcription, including professional transcriptionist services, artificial intelligence machine-generated services, free “hacks,” and untrained study participants drawn from library student and staff employees. In order to create a study that reflected the types of materials that would be encountered in an archival AV collection, I selected video samples from our collection with a diverse range of recording issues that could affect transcription quality.
The Rooks ECLF provided me with time and space to develop and execute a research study. While this was valuable in its own right, it also had a very positive unanticipated outcome – I was able to draw on what I had learned from the study and tap into the Fellowship funding to launch a project to retain student employees in a remote work project during the COVID-19 campus closure. Along with colleagues in Metadata and Digitization Services, we were able to engage over 25 student employees from across the UH Libraries in the creation of hundreds of hours of high-quality video captions.
What takeaways did you learn from this experience? What advice do you have for other early career librarians?
If you have an idea, give it a shot! I had no experience designing or executing a research study. At UH Libraries, we are fortunate to have many colleagues with expertise to draw on, as well as the wider campus community. I received advice that was integral to creating a well-planned study.
I’ve gained such valuable experience – from navigating the institutional review board process to gaining a deeper appreciation for the vital importance of captions. This experience has also opened the doors to numerous opportunities to present on my research, and I anticipate seeking opportunities to publish on it as well.
University of Houston Libraries Special Collections, in collaboration with institutional partners, has co-curated an exhibit featuring materials from regional LGBTQIA+ history collections.
Coming Out Together to Share our History: LGBTQIA+ Collections in College Station, Houston, and Beyond will be hosted at Texas A&M Cushing Library from July 12 through December 16, 2021.
Among the posters, photos, books, magazines, and newsletters that will be on display, notable materials from partner collections include selections from The Banner Project, a bar top and a decorated chair commemorating the community and history of Mary’s… Naturally in Houston, and memorabilia from the 1993 March on Washington. UH Special Collections, in addition to contributing materials from the LGBT History Research Collection, facilitated oral histories with exhibit partners. The recorded interviews will be shown on a monitor in the second-floor exhibition gallery of the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives.
Dr. Francesca Marini, programming and outreach librarian of the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, noted the exhibit’s impact on scholarship and research. “It shows how rich and complex LGBTQIA+ history is, both in the College Station/Houston area and in the country as a whole,” Marini said. “It shows how communities have archived their own history to make sure it is documented and passed on to future generations.”
Viewers of the exhibit will enjoy an immersive experience through the stories told by the archives about the communities they represent, “stories of art, life, community, activism, fighting against the AIDS crisis, and, most of all, sharing love and understanding,” Marini added.
The exhibit was created through collaboration between Texas A&M University Libraries Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, UH Libraries LGBT History Research Collection, Charles Law Community Archive at The African American Library at the Gregory School/Houston Public Library, The Banner Project, Gulf Coast Archive and Museum of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender History, Inc. (GCAM), Nick Vaughan & Jake Margolin, The JD Doyle Archives, Rice University Fondren Library Woodson Research Center, and The Botts Collection of LGBT History.
Beginning this summer, visitors to University of Houston MD Anderson Library will notice building repair work in progress.
The estimated 12-month project includes water-proofing to begin July 5, and roofing replacement to begin in November. Dates are approximations.
Fencing has been positioned around the MD Anderson Library on three sides and will not affect the main entrance. The loading dock area, as well as emergency egress doors, will not be impacted.
During the course of the project, some noise may be heard inside the Library.
Impact to the Library’s surrounding environment will be minimal. The large magnolia tree at the southeast corner of the building will be protected at all times, and other bordering shrubbery and trees may be removed and replaced at the completion of the project.
Updates to the project will be shared as they become available.
Roberto Tejada, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen Distinguished Professor of English and Art History at University of Houston and 2021 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow in Poetry, recently donated a limited edition copy of a bookwork to UH Special Collections.
Why the Assembly Disbanded is an artist’s book co-crafted by Tejada and book designer Cristina Paoli of Periferia in Mexico City. “I’ve been fortunate to work with artists and designers on several collaborative projects at different inflection points in my life,” Tejada said, “so I turned to Cristina to work on an object that would reflect the themes of [the forthcoming poetry collection] Why the Assembly Disbanded—primarily, how to think of possible futures from the relentless social madness of the past in the present—with the help of photographs by Connie Samaras and Rubén Ortiz Torres, whose images activate some of the fears and fantasies I confront in the book.”
Only 100 copies were created and gifted to libraries and collecting institutions, an “engineered scarcity” that connotes the motivation to preserve rare cultural artifacts. “It became clear to me as I worked with Cristina that I wanted this artist’s book to underscore the perversity of value in our social-media environment and its economies of attention and scale,” Tejada noted.
The book viewer is greeted with a message to accept the work as an “act of social faith,” a concept that Tejada, as a young poet, first encountered in the pages of Lewis Hyde’s The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property and which left an enduring effect.
“As opposed to economies of accumulation, [Hyde] argues that gifts and gift-giving keep ‘cultural vitality in motion,'” Tejada wrote. “The gift being ‘property that perishes,’ my aim is to emphasize the life-enhancing commitments, the élan vital, in short, the erotics that sustain every act meant to survive us.”
Fonts of inspiration for this work date back to the period from 1987-1997 when Tejada lived and worked in Mexico City. “My friends included the writer Carmen Boullosa, the painter Magali Lara, and the bookmaker Juan Pascoe, all belonging to a generation of artists who turned to mail art and bookworks as legitimate and surreptitious mediums for collaboration,” he said. “Pascoe has produced beautiful letterpress objects at his preeminent Taller Martín Pescador, including a collaboration between Boullosa and Lara (Lealtad, Taller Martín Pescador, 1981). Magali was the first to speak to me of the great Mexican book artist and multimedia thinker Ulises Carrión who in his writings, including The New Art of Making Books, wrote about the book medium as ‘a sequence of spaces. Each of these spaces is perceived at a different moment—a book is also a sequence of moments.’ (UH Special Collections owns a unique object by Carrión, a marvel of an artist’s book called Mirror Box.)”
Other creative work and collaborations of particular significance for Tejada include Chilean writer-artist Juan Luis Martínez and his “uncontainable” book La nueva novela (1971/1977/1985), the collaboration between poet Jayne Cortez and artist Mel Edwards (Festivals and Funerals, Phase Text, 1971) and bookworks by Chicana conceptualist Celia Alvarez Muñoz.
With the widescale challenges of the past year, the project elicited greater meaning. “Working with Cristina on this book, even at the risk of overstatement, saved me from some of the darkest hours of despair in the global catastrophe of the COVID-19 pandemic, continued acts of racial injustice, the forced relocation of peoples, and the encroaching dangers of illiberal rule throughout the world today,” Tejada shared. “In the process of collaboration, I held a space for the uncounted, for both the cruel fortunes and joyful vitality of what my book calls a ‘society of alternate belonging.'”
Partially quoting the book’s preamble, “Why the Assembly Disbanded wonders, from the uncontainable perspective of a present already becoming the past, whose purpose does it serve to wager on the future’s history?”
“Artist’s books like Why the Assembly Disbanded, Mirror Box, or cartoneras and handmade works from Cuba’s Ediciones Vigía—among many housed in Special Collections—engage with text, image, form and format, through an analog, personal interaction with the ‘reader’ for creative and often political expression,” said Christian Kelleher, head of UH Special Collections. “This is artistic, social and cultural critical commentary that can be a unique experience. We are gratified to be able to make works like this available to students and scholars at UH.”
Why the Assembly Disbanded is available for viewing in the Special Collections Reading Room, located on the second floor of the MD Anderson Library, by appointment. Researchers are encouraged to contact curators with questions and requests.
University of Houston Libraries welcomes Natalia Kapacinskas as the new instruction librarian. She joins UH from Fort Bend County Libraries.
Please describe your role at UH Libraries and talk about some of your professional goals.
As a member of the instruction team, I will be supporting student learning by working to develop and sustain meaningful collaborations with my colleagues in the Libraries and with teaching faculty across the University. This includes teaching class sessions, particularly for key foundational classes in the undergraduate curriculum, as well as creating digital instructional materials covering important research skills like evaluating the production, access, use, and collection of information through a critical lens. There are so many exciting conversations happening on these topics in the world of library instruction, and it’s my goal to learn from and contribute to these conversations as our team continues to tailor our instruction to the UH community.
Please share a bit about your background and interests. How do these inspire and shape your approach as a librarian?
I have a passion for supporting students, especially those early in their university careers, as they research existing information and produce information of their own. This passion comes both from my own transformative experience doing research as an undergraduate and from my more recent role as a library instructor, which gave me another perspective on the undergraduate experience. To better support students in developing their own identities as scholars, I am always asking how I can make my instruction more collaborative, inclusive, and empathetic.
What is your first impression of the University?
I’ve been so impressed by the kindness and welcoming spirit of my colleagues in the Libraries! Given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, my onboarding experience has been far from typical, but my colleagues have gone above and beyond to make me feel welcome. I’m very excited to be working with colleagues who will apply this same spirit of care to our work in the Libraries.
What is your favorite hobby/cuisine/book/movie/TV show?
Cooking and baking are my biggest hobbies, and I like experimenting with different flavors and new recipes. One day when it’s possible to share food with colleagues again, I look forward to bringing a batch of lemon cream cheese cookies to work! Though it’s not a movie, book, or TV show, I’d like to spotlight the podcast Home Cooking with Samin Nosrat and Hrishikesh Hirway as a favorite piece of media and a huge source of joy in the past year.
Taylor Davis-Van Atta, director of the Digital Research Commons at University of Houston Libraries, has been chosen as the 2021 recipient of the Texas Digital Library (TDL) Scholarly Communication Award. The award honors the work of an individual or group of academics, including faculty and librarians, who have made significant advances in our understanding of the issues surrounding scholarly communications.
In her letter of nomination for the award, Anne Washington, semantic applications product analyst at OCLC and former coordinator of metadata services at UH Libraries, stated that “Taylor Davis-Van Atta is most deserving of the TDL Scholarly Communication Award for his leadership in transforming UH Libraries scholarly communication services and support. His achievements include significantly growing University of Houston (UH)‚ open access repositories; championing UH Libraries services across campus; and creatively engaging UH colleges and programs to make thousands of student and faculty works openly available.”
Among Davis-Van Atta’s many accomplishments are the build-out of infrastructure for the Cougar ROAR (Repositories for Open Access) to support scholars in depositing and sharing their open works, and the establishment of a curriculum vitae service to expedite the deposit of faculty works into the Institutional Repository.
Davis-Van Atta came to UH Libraries in 2017 as the digital scholarship coordinator and was promoted to his current role in 2020. His areas of specialization include scholarly publishing, open access and author rights, thesis and dissertation development, and his research interests include digital research sustainability and the presentation and preservation of born-digital research outputs. He is also the founding publisher and co-editor of the humanities journal Music & Literature.
University of Houston Libraries Digital Research Commons (DRC) invites all UH graduate students to submit an application for participation in the Fall 2021 Digital Research Institute, a multi-day intensive experience aimed at building the foundational skills and knowledge needed to generate a piece of digital research.
The Institute will take place virtually over five days, August 16 – 20, 2021, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm daily. It is aimed at graduate students who are in the beginning phases of digital research that is intended to form the basis for part of an article or a thesis/dissertation. The 4-6 students who are best positioned to benefit from the experience will be offered a seat in the Institute along with a $250.00 scholarship, provided by the UH Graduate School, to be delivered after successful completion of the experience.
Participants will be expected to attend all five days of the Institute plus a one-day “Getting Started” workshop to be scheduled on a Friday approximately two weeks prior to the Institute. Participants will be assigned individualized pre-work and readings that will give them the theoretical and conceptual grounding needed to undertake the work of the Institute and exit the experience with the tangible beginnings of their digital research as well as next steps. Over the Institute, they will attend 3-5 sessions per day delivered by librarians and other digital research practitioners, each targeted at building their technical skills and offering individualized mentorship.
To apply, fill out this form by Friday, June 18, 2021, 11:59 pm.
Questions? Contact the staff in the Digital Research Commons: email@example.com
Criteria for acceptance: The application review committee aims to accept 4 – 6 applicants for participation in the Institute. Applications will be evaluated based on candidates’ clarity of purpose and intent, and how they hope to benefit from the Institute experience. Preference will be given to applicants who clearly illustrate how the Institute will enhance and further their research ambitions while at University of Houston. The review committee will strive to represent a variety of perspectives, disciplines, backgrounds, and levels of experience in its selection process.
Application submission deadline: Friday, June 18, 2021, 11:59 pm
Acceptance notifications issued: Friday, July 9, 2021
Confirmation of participation: Friday, July 16, 2021
Digital Research Institute: August 16 – 20, 2021